The first 1/34th of an MLS season is about as likely to give misleading impressions as accurate ones.
The exception? The rule? Who can tell with so little data?
Still, when first impressions are all there are, it can be at least interesting to speculate on which ones are the keepers. So here are three impressions from the season’s opening weekend and Seattle Sounders FC’s opening 3-0 win Sunday over the New England Revolution.
• The Sounders might have upgraded at right back.
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That hardly seemed possible on the day DeAndre Yedlin left Seattle for Tottenham Hotspur. And there was only cautious mitigation on the day the club announced the signing of European veteran Tyrone Mears.
However, it now seems a reasonable possibility — at least for the next season or two — after Mears’ jaw-dropping MLS debut.
Sounders management had implied that Mears might be an upgrade over Yedlin in purely defensive terms. And there was nothing during the preseason or in the shutout of New England to contradict that.
But Mears also knew when and how to flow forward into the offense — most notably on Seattle’s second goal, which was set up by his cross from the right side directly onto the head of Obafemi Martins, who sent it into the net.
With that performance, Sounders supporters certainly warmed to the newcomer. And the feeling was mutual.
“(I came to MLS) to play in front of these fans,” Mears said of his Seattle debut. “It’s a fantastic experience. It’s like going to places like Old Trafford, Anfield. … That’s the way it is here in this stadium.”
• Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins are the best forward tandem in MLS.
The pair combined for 32 goals last season, and then added three more Sunday: two by Dempsey and one by Martins. Equally important, each assisted the other.
Not only does there seem to be no clash of egos, they seem to simply enjoy playing with each other. Dempsey has often likened it to a couple of kids playing pickup ball.
And there’s value in that. Certainly, all goals are recorded equally on the scoreboard. And there’s an undeniable kind of skill inherent to right-place-at-the-right-time goal scorers such as Chris Wondolowski and Bradley Wright-Phillips. But fans tend to prefer those amazing goals that some magical strikers just seem to pull out of a hat.
Dempsey and Martins are those kinds of scorers: entertaining and electric. And now that they have experience playing together, and now that they are each coming into an MLS season relatively fresh, it could be very special to see what they can conjure up between now and December.
• Major League Soccer’s 20th season will be its best.
Once the dark cloud of a potential work stoppage dissipated, MLS took advantage of a first week in the sunshine.
The Los Angeles Galaxy looked every bit the defending champions they are. The new Sunday national TV doubleheader gave hope of becoming appointment TV for fans open to adopting the domestic league. And down in the previously troublesome Florida market, Orlando welcomed its expansion team with a sellout crowd of 62,510. After watching the home team pull out a 1-1 draw with a stoppage-time goal from Brazilian superstar Kaka, well, it’s hard to imagine most of those fans won’t want to return.
“It’s fantastic for the league, it’s fantastic they got 60,000 there,” Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said. “They were all in purple, so that’s pretty exciting. … I wanted to watch that game just for the spectacle of it. Certainly getting guys like Kaka and (David) Villa into the league are important. The Portland-RSL match, like all matches are in Portland, was hectic and an end-to-end battle. Nick Rimando showed that he is in midseason form. … Toronto-Vancouver was a good game as well: first half was Vancouver, and the second half was Toronto. But the league is in good shape. Teams are getting better, and we are happy to get three points.”